I look forward to September if only for the structure it provides for returning to cooking dinner on a more regular basis. But how to get motivated after the warm and dreamy days of summer where throwing dinner together at the last minute and dining out were the norm?
My motivation comes in the form of a meatball. Yes, the little flavor bombs as I have come to call them, who make cooking dinner a little bit more fun. Bits of fresh tarragon are what make these a little more extraordinary. Tarragon is known for its anise like flavor and soft textured, pointed tipped leaves. It’s a summer into fall fresh herb, but available year-round in most grocery stores.
I nearly named this recipe “ball and stick soup” with the onion, celery and carrot sliced into sticks (“julienne”) rather than chopped, and the spaghetti noodles broken into 2 inch lengths. I like the way they look in the soup, and hey it’s the beginning of a new school year. Chopping the vegetables is a speedy alternative if you’re looking to save time.
Use ground chicken thigh meat if you can, as it is more flavorful and its texture makes the meatballs more tender then ground chicken breast. As always if you can’t find it in the meat case of your grocery store, you can do it yourself in a food processor with a steel blade.
- 1 pound ground chicken thigh meat
- ⅔ cup bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (half for meatballs, half for the soup)
- ½-1 teaspoon salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup sliced julienne onion (1/2 medium size)*see note for julienne
- 1-1/2 cups julienne carrot sticks (about 2 medium carrots)*see note for julienne
- 1-1/2 cups julienne celery sticks (about 3 medium stalks)*see note for julienne
- 8 cups chicken broth (I prefer low sodium)
- 2 cups water
- 2 ounces spaghetti noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths (I prefer whole wheat spaghetti)
- For the meatballs, place chicken, bread crumbs, egg, garlic, 1 tablespoon tarragon, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix together with a fork. Form into 1-1/2 to 2 inch balls, wetting hands if necessary to prevent sticking while rolling. There should be about 18 to 20 balls.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium size stockpot. Brown meatballs, turning with a wooden spoon or spatula several times. Remove meatballs to a plate (they will not be cooked all the way through at this point).
- There should be a little oil remaining in the pan and if not, add a bit more. Over medium heat, cook onions until lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes, then add carrots and celery and cook just until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. Add spaghetti noodles and cook just until softened (consult package for length of time) about 9 to 10 minutes. Add meatballs and remaining 1 tablespoon tarragon, adjust heat to low (simmer) and cook just until meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes (to check doneness, remove a meatball and cut in half).
- Taste soup and season with salt and pepper.
Cut onion in half, from the stem to the root. Trim ends and peel off outer dry skin. Lay onion flat side down and cut into thin slices.
To julienne carrots and celery:
Peel carrots and trim ends. Trim ends from celery. Cut carrots and celery into 2 to 3-inch lengths. Cut carrots into ⅛ to ¼-inch slices, then cut slices into ⅛ to ¼ inch batons - "julienne". Slice celery into ⅛ to ¼-inch batons - "julienne".